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In the News: News from April 2016

GIS data helps clear debris from Hays County rivers

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Finding and clearing debris left by the Memorial Day and October floods from the Blanco, Little Blanco and San Marcos rivers that stretch throughout Hays County is a massive undertaking still underway. Efforts to locate debris alone could have taken months as the three riverbeds span about 58 miles throughout the county, but a visual survey of the riverbanks lasted only three days after the county deployed GIS techniques.

Using GIS data and aerial ortho- and oblique imagery, the Hays County GIS Department saved the county personnel time and lowered the cost of locating debris. The effort aided the county and FEMA’s Private Property Removal Program (PPRP) in spotting more than 7,000 points of debris on 600 parcels of river adjacent property. Debris found during the GIS survey included mostly fallen trees, but vehicles and several areas of exposed pipelines were also discovered.

“The best method of assessing the big picture is from aerial evaluations without having to get onto private properties, and it is much less treacherous for those doing the assessment,” said Hays County Judge Bert Cobb. “Aerial views of the affected areas are the safest and most cost-effective method currently available to preserve property rights and get the necessary information needed to comply with the demands of several agencies and authorities.”

Days after the October flood occurred the county attempted a boots-on-the-ground survey for debris in the riverbeds. But because of the large area, the number of private properties with in it, and the size of the floods events, the survey proved challenging. The Memorial Day flood, the worst of the two events, was so significant in size thousands of trees were ripped out, broken or bent along the Blanco River. It is estimated that the flood damaged or destroyed 12,000 trees county wide. October’s flood added more damage and moved debris further down the riverbeds.
About 40 county employees participated in the on the ground survey. The survey worked well in urban areas, where property was close to the street, said Steve Floyd, Hays County GIS and 911 Addressing program manager who participated in the survey. Employees could talk to people from the street and sometimes even see into riverbeds. In rural areas, gaining access to property was rare and notes were sometimes left on gates at the end of mile long driveways.

Ending the ground survey, the county pursued aerial imagery options that allowed for a detailed and procedural visual inspection of the disaster areas. To meet a FEMA deadline, the county quickly needed planes in the air to capture the events as they were. As a consistent participant in CAPCOG’s GeoMap program, Hays County already had aerial imagery from before the flood events. To consider new imagery options, Floyd contacted CAPCOG’s GIS Program Manager, Craig Eissler. Eissler helped coordinate a suitable solution that met the county’s timeframe and budget demands. Within two weeks, flights captured images along the Blanco River and portions of the Little Blanco and San Marcos rivers.

In January, the Hays County GIS staff began using new 6-inch resolution images to review and map debris piles within the rivers’ 10-year floodplain. The four-person staff used the orthoimagery catalog in the ArcMap data view on one monitor and the oblique viewer on a second monitor. The views were synchronized to pan at the same time. After three days of viewing, the staff identified debris piles on about 600 parcels and sent a list of properties to the debris removal contractor. In many instances, the GIS staff created a single point to represent clusters of debris.

One challenge faced by the GIS staff during the scanning process included identifying fallen trees at the base of steep bluffs obscured by shadows in the ortho views. Another challenge was sighting fallen trees not clearly visible through the densely overlapping limbs of still vertical trees, but the oblique images made both visible.

The staff also discovered areas of severe riverbank erosion exposing segments of pipelines. Some segments included active natural gas pipelines, up to 30-inches in diameter. In two other places, inactive or empty segments of 12.75-inch diameter pipelines were discovered. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality informed the county the two lines were purged and capped years ago.

Since the GIS staff’s review of the riverbanks, many landowners have granted access to the county’s debris removal contractor. As of Feb. 22, 2016 about 2,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris was hauled from private property and about 3,000 cubic yards of debris was removed from public rights-of-way. However, no estimates have been made for the amount burned by property owners.

TDA hosts workshop, webinar for small and microenterprise fund

Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Source: Texas Department of Agriculture

The Texas Department of Agriculture will conduct a workshop and a webinar for communities interested in applying for grant funds to support small businesses and microenterprises in their jurisdictions.

A Small and Microenterprise Revolving Loan Fund (SMRF) grant workshop will be held at 10 a.m., Tuesday, May 3, at 1700 Congress Avenue in Austin. The webinar on the same topic will be at 2 p.m., Thursday, June 9.

> Register for the grant workshop.
> Get the link for the webinar.

SMRF provides funds for rural communities to invest in new or existing small businesses and microenterprises. In cooperation with a qualified, nonprofit development organization, SMRF monies are loaned to local small businesses and microenterprises to support job creation and retention activity for predominately low and moderate income persons. Once the contractual job creation or retention requirements are satisfied, the contract is monitored for compliance and closed by TDA.

Eligible applicants are non-entitlement local governments, incorporated cities and counties not participating or designated as eligible to participate in the entitlement portion of the federal Community Development Block Grant Program. Non-entitlement cities that are not participating in urban county programs through existing participation agreements are eligible applicants unless the city’s population counts toward the urban county CDBG allocation.

> Learn more about the SMFR grant.
> Go to TDA’s websites. 
> Read about the CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division.

Local seniors need advocates

Monday, April 18, 2016

Passionate advocates can volunteer to help seniors in their local community by becoming a certified volunteer ombudsman with the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP). Ombudsmen provide older persons who reside in nursing and assisted living facilities a voice about their quality of life and the care they receive when they can no longer do it for themselves or are too afraid to do so.

As a program of CAPCOG, AAACAP ombudsmen serve about 250 nursing and assisted living facilities in the 10-county region. Volunteer ombudsmen play a key role in ensuring the well-being of those living in facilities as many residents have no relatives or regular visitors, and no one to act on their behalf. Family members with a loved one who resides in a care facility also need ombudsmen to help navigate the process necessary to achieve change and improve the care of their loved ones.

Volunteer ombudsmen are certified and specially trained to advocate for residents’ rights and quality of care by visiting and observing  residents’ care at long-term care facilities. Volunteer ombudsmen, working with AAACAP staff ombudsmen, identify and help resolve complaints. They also educate residents, families, and care-facility staff on maintaining the health, safety, and welfare of residents. Ombudsman services are free and confidential.

No prior experience is required to be a volunteer ombudsman, but they must be at least 18. AAACAP provides the required training to become a volunteer ombudsman. Seniors in your area need you.

> Contact Pete Moreno, managing lead ombudsman.
> Learn more about the ombudsman program.

CAPCOG approves Text-to-9-1-1 with October deadline

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CAPCOG’s Capital Area Emergency Communications District board approved the deployment of Text-to-9-1-1 for the 10-county region in its meeting this week; the action triggers notice to the wireless carriers who then have six months to provide the service.

Often the service is made available sooner than six months, according to Gregg Obuch, CAPCOG Emergency Communications Director, but it must be working by October.

Watch for the launch of the Text-to-9-1-1 educational campaign in  late summer.

> Read more about Text-to-9-1-1
> Learn about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.
 

CAPCOG prioritizes homeland security grants

Monday, April 11, 2016

The CAPCOG Executive Committee approved the prioritized list of all 56 Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) applications from throughout the region at its March meeting, but the funding being allocated to the 10-county area will only fund the first 13 projects. While $7 million of projects were submitted, the expected allocation at the time of the meeting was $1.77 million.

The process for reviewing applications is led by four subcommittees working under the Homeland Security Task Force that focus on preparedness, response, communications, and public health. Projects that received the highest prioritizations included purchases for rescue and response equipment, school safety kits, a remote automated weather station, bomb robots, and funding for community emergency response teams.

It was recommended that the $4.7 million of emergency communication projects focused on radio interoperability be sent to the Capital Area Emergency Communications District board and its strategic advisory committee for consideration. With decreasing HSGP regional funds, this source is no longer viable for many of these radio communication projects, CAPCOG Executive Director Betty Voights suggested. The CAECD will look at these once a regional plan is completed and recommended by the CAECD committee.

Subsequent to the Executive Committee’s approval of the grants prioritization, CAPCOG received notice the region would receive $300,000 less than the anticipated $1.77 million. According to new information from the Texas Office of the Governor to which all projects are finalized and contracted, CAPCOG anticipates  about $1.49 million in grant funds.

> Learn about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.
 

Telecommunicators nationally recognized

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

CAPCOG, as the lead agency for regional emergency communications working through the Capital Area Emergency Communications District, urges all local governments to recognize the 700 9-1-1 telecommunicators for their unwavering service to the 10-county region. In March, CAPCOG’s Executive Committee proclaimed April 10-16 National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week to honor local telecommunicators throughout the 10-county region.

The nationally recognized week celebrates and honors 9-1-1 call takers and their important role as the first, first responder. By providing 24/7 service, telecommunicators help save lives, apprehend criminal suspects, and protect property and people. Other emergency service personnel and municipal and county officials will show their appreciation for their local 9-1-1 call takers throughout the week by hosting an array of activities and events just for the public safety telecommunicators.

Because 9-1-1 telecommunicators are a vital link between first responders and their communities, CAPCOG encourages all local governments to honor their telecommunicators by signing proclamations or resolutions and celebrating this week in April so citizens also understand the value of the telecommunicators’ role in public safety.

> Read the CAPCOG Executive Committee resolution for National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.
> Read the State proclaimation for National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Emergency Communication Division.

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